Monday, September 26, 2016

Banned Books Week Puzzle!

You guys. It's Banned Books Week.
I always find myself doing fun little games for my BBW posts, and this year I made a cryptogram!
See if you can puzzle out the important message that I'm sending you. (It's not "be sure to drink your Ovaltine", just a heads up!) Your hint is that the word "reading" pops up alot!

Anyone else celebrating Banned Books Week on your blog?

6       19       20           17           11          

__ E A __ I __ __ I __ __ O I __ __ O __ __ A __ __ !
9 19 6 23 20 26 18 20 10 10 17 20 5 25 17 9 7 6 26 7

__ E A __ __ O O __ __ __ __ A __ __ O U __ O __ E
9 19 6 23 14 17 17 24 10 7 21 6 7 2 17 11 22 17 3 19

__ U __ A __ __ O __ E A __ __ O O __ __ __ __ A __
14 11 7 6 22 10 17 9 19 6 23 14 17 17 24 10 7 21 6 7

__ __ A __ __ E __ __ E __ O U A __ __ __ O __ __ I __ E __
4 21 6 22 22 19 26 18 19 2 17 11 6 26 23 4 17 26 10 20 23 19 9

A __ E __ __ E __ __ __ E __ __ I __ E !
6 26 19 8 25 19 9 10 25 19 4 7 20 3 19

Friday, September 23, 2016

Bookish thoughts: "Underground Airlines" by Ben Winters

I was excited about this book coming out because I loved Ben's Last Policeman trilogy and was able to meet him at an author's signing in a now-defunct local mystery bookstore. He was friendly and nerdy and played the ukulele and UA was just in it's infancy at the time.

However, I nearly missed the controversy associated with this book, but got clued in late in the game. If YOU missed it, I will sum up. But first, a summary (thanks Amazon!): 

It is the present-day, and the world is as we know it: smartphones, social networking and Happy Meals. Save for one thing: the Civil War never occurred.

A gifted young black man calling himself Victor has struck a bargain with federal law enforcement, working as a bounty hunter for the US Marshall Service. He's got plenty of work. In this version of America, slavery continues in four states called "the Hard Four." On the trail of a runaway known as Jackdaw, Victor arrives in Indianapolis knowing that something isn't right--with the case file, with his work, and with the country itself.

A mystery to himself, Victor suppresses his memories of his childhood on a plantation, and works to infiltrate the local cell of a abolitionist movement called the Underground Airlines. Tracking Jackdaw through the back rooms of churches, empty parking garages, hotels, and medical offices, Victor believes he's hot on the trail. But his strange, increasingly uncanny pursuit is complicated by a boss who won't reveal the extraordinary stakes of Jackdaw's case, as well as by a heartbreaking young woman and her child who may be Victor's salvation. Victor himself may be the biggest obstacle of all--though his true self remains buried, it threatens to surface.

Victor believes himself to be a good man doing bad work, unwilling to give up the freedom he has worked so hard to earn. But in pursuing Jackdaw, Victor discovers secrets at the core of the country's arrangement with the Hard Four, secrets the government will preserve at any cost.

There was kind of a told fold controversy:

1) Ben's a white guy and he was writing a book with (as yah may have guessed from the summary) really strong themes about racism and slavery.

2) Others were angry because Ben was being praised for his weaving together of racial issues and science fiction. Several black writers have been doing this for a long time, with less recognition.

Obviously there are a lot of raw feelings in the states right now with the racial unrest that we are experiencing.

There's a lot of feelings going around and I don't want to start unnecessary fights on the internet that don't solve anything.

Basically, if you read the book and it makes you think long and hard about the history and the future of this country and you have good, respectful conversations with your fellow humans about what you have learned I don't think it matters about who wrote this book. Then, after you finish UA, go pick up an Octavia Butler and appreciate the people who tilled the road before.



Wednesday, September 21, 2016

MPLS/St Paul Reccomendations

Recently my sister moved to St Paul Minnesota and a couple of weekends ago I got the chance to spend the weekend with her and our dear friend Corrie who was in town for a conference. We spent the weekend eating, drinking and shopping and I thought I'd share a couple of places with you in case you ever found yourself in that neck of the woods. Or, even better, find Julianne over at Outlandish Lit and ask her! 

Best Nom Nom Noms

 We had a tasty brunch at a place called The Buttered Tin. I had breakfast tacos which were delicious and a little spicy! It's a popular spot so you might need to wait, but our wait was only 15 minutes. There is a delicious looking bakery if you want a takeaway snack!

We had ANOTHER tasty brunch at a a place called the Dark Horse Bar and Eatery. They had a great little patio area and the service was great. I had waffles with goat cheese, bacon and green onions, which gave me the sweet and the savory I wanted in all one waffle.

We hit up a happy hour for dinner at the Mall of America at a place called Tucci Benucch. Sangria and toasted ravioli and bruschetta and mozzarella and yuuuuuuum. 


The Mall of America is obviously a WHOLE thing, but if you want to shop until your feet turn into bloody stumps you can do it here.

Magers & Quinn is delicious wonderful indie bookstore that I could have spent hours and hours in. Go spend a bunch of money and say hi to Julianne!

 21 best ridiculous Minnesota memes - Page 4 | City Pages:

Friday, September 16, 2016

Book review: "The Caretaker of Lorne Fields" by David Zeltserman

If you like creepy books without certain resolution , well boy howdy do I have a book for you!

Jack Durkin spends his whole day saving the world, at least that's what he spends. To the passerby he spends the whole day, every day, weeding the same field. Jack spends his days preventing the horrible Aukowie from rising up and destroying the world. It's a familial job, passed down from oldest son to oldest son going back almost 300 years. It used to be a job that people respected, and treated the Durkin's with deference and kindness. Now people are cynical, and whisper that those Durkins have lost their minds. And on top of that Jack has a cranky wife, an oldest son who wants nothing to do with the field, and a younger son who wants to be the caretaker but can't be because the contract, signed by his ancestors and the town, says it has to be the oldest son.

A horrifying incident changes the public view of Jack from a harmless weirdo to a person who is dangerous and delusional. Jack's allies are few and far between as he tries to prove that is work is important and can't be disturbed.

I wasn't sure if I was #TeamDurkin or #TeamSkepticalTownsfolk because after each incident my position changed. If you read this, let me know where you land. I don't think we're supposed to have a solid answer but I'm curious as to people's interpretations.

I give this book a solid 3.5 stars for being short, inventive, a little heart tuggy, and a little scary all wrapped into one!


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Book review: "The Wolf Road" by Beth Lewis

Elka, our narrator could kill me and skin me pretty deftly I think. After "the Big Stupid" (which we never get a full account on but seems to be some kind of nuclear/global war) she and her nana live alone in a cabin in the woods. But after a dangerous storm lands Elka far from everything she knows she meets the Trapper, who takes her in and teaches her everything she needs to know about  living in the forest and being a skilled hunter. He never let's her go with him on big hunts for things like elk, and he's not exactly parental and warm but he's taught her a lot and took her in when she was in need of shelter. So they're a weird little family....until Elka is in town one day and is confronted with a lady boss officer of the law who tells her that the Trapper may not be all who she thinks he Elka makes a run for it, with almost nothing to her name but her wits, skill and a really good knife.

Elka is not met with kindness from all as she tries to make her way to the town where she thinks that her parents, who she hasn't seen since she was a baby, set out for to make their fortunes on what sounds like a post apocalyptic gold rush. The whole time she can basically feel the Trapper's breath on her neck. She does meet a few allies on the way, one has four legs and fur, and the other is a person who ends up saving her life more than once.

There is danger, adventure, terrible creepy people, good hearted nice people, the scariest sounding thunderstorms I've ever heard of (maybe nuclear war disrupted our weather patterns or something?), death defying escapes, and people locked in crates. I wouldn't read this book while camping. Nope nope nope.

I give this book a 3.2 out of 5. It was entertaining and a fast read, even if it wasn't ever breaking new ground. My only criticism was that a lot of the time I forgot that it was supposed to be post-apocalyptic because it didn't really play into the story TOO much. It could have just been the normal 1880s most of the time. Either way, not a big criticism.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review

Friday, September 9, 2016

Book Review: "One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway" by Asne Seierstad

This book was on my TBR for a long time but I didn't ever pick it up due to the page length. You really have to plan when you're going to read those 500+ page books, you know? I finally made time for it, and I'm kicking myself for taking so long to open it up. 

Just as a reminder, in 2011 Anders Breivik detonated a bomb in downtown Oslo (killing 8) and then took guns to a island where a group of teenagers were at a camp and killed 69 teenagers. (Everytime I re-read the numbers it makes me queasy). I remember this attack, maybe more than others, because we have good family friends who were in Norway when this happened and they had been in Oslo the day before. Luckily we were able to reach them on faceook and found out that they were ok.
This book chronicles the life of Breivik and those of his victims, and then later the crimes themselves. The descriptions of the lives of everyone involved made for a really interesting look into the lives of people who live in Norway. Like (this is over simplifying) Breivik's mother said she felt too overwhelmed to care for him and so the government provided a family to watch him on the weekends for a short time. I was like whaaaaat is that all about? And how Norway has struggled to become an integrated, multicultural place. Not a rare struggle.

This book wasn't a feel good book. It was detailed and unflinching. You heard about the exact moments that these young people lost their lives. Where the bullets entered their brains. What they were holding in their hands when they dies. If they were near their friends. Sometimes their last words. However, I felt like the explicitness of the story kept it from being cheapened or glossed over. It showed the horror of the acts that were committed.

The whole book made me feel uneasy and sickly but there was one particular part that made me feel like someone punched me in the stomach. After the massacre had stopped and the survivors had been evacuated to the mainland the police and medical examiners began to cover all of the bodies with sheets. In the darkness and stillness of the coming night you could hear the cellphones ringing from the pockets and the clutched hands of the bodies under the sheets. The desperate phone calls to children from parents that wouldn't be answered. Ugh. 

I'm not going to rate this book because how can you rate a book about the worst days of so many people's lives. Be assured that this book is worth reading.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Book Review: "In Praise of Profanity" by Michael Adams

This book really didn't need to be a whole book. Though it was a pretty short book I felt like it might have been better in a different format, maybe a series of web articles? Though it felt like it carried on a little longer than it probably needed to, and got a little folded over on top of itself sometimes there were some interesting points:

-What's the difference between something being obscene or profane?

- Who decides what words are worse than others? (Like, you can say "ass" on tv but maybe not "shit"?)

- Words that used to be insults that now people have "reclaimed" - n*gga, bitch, and f*g.

One thing that I thought was interesting that the book kinda brings up but then I stewed on it a little more was how many different contexts we can use the same word. For example, "shit".

My team just scored a touchdown - "Shit yeah!" (Celebratory)

Becky borrowed my favorite sweater without asking and I just found out - "What the shit, Becky?!" (Angry)

When Becky finds out that I know she has my favorite sweater - "Oh Shit" (Scared). YOU SHOULD BE BECKY, I LOVE THAT SWEATER.

And, of course the sentence you would say after wolfing down too much movie theater popcorn in one sitting - "I'm going to have the shits" (Verb...technically a predictive verb if that was a real thing.)

So, short book, fast read, kinda redundant but I learned a couple of swear words in different languages so not a complete loss. 2.5 stars.